A Burger King in Texas has agreed to pay $25,000 to a Pentecostal woman who wore a skirt to work, court documents state.
The payment settles a lawsuit filed in August by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Fries Restaurant Management, LLC, which owns and operates the Burger King in Grand Prairie, Texas. The store allegedly asked a teenage woman to leave work after she arrived in a skirt. The EEOC's lawsuit against Fries alleged religious discrimination, which is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964.
Fries Restaurant Management has agreed to pay Ashanti McShan $20,000 for "mental anguish and non-wage damages" and an additional $5,000 in lost wages, according to a consent decree filed last week in a U.S. district court.
The restaurant management company also agreed to post its policy against religious discrimination on employee bulletin boards in every Burger King it operates in the state of Texas. In addition, it vowed to hold trainings for managers on federal anti-discrimination laws for the next two years, according to the documents.
McShan was a senior in high school when she came to work at the Burger King wearing a skirt instead of the black pants that are part of Burger King's uniform.
McShan is Pentecostal, a type of Christianity that not only practices experiential displays of faith but interprets the Bible literally. The fifth book of the Bible, also known as Deuteronomy, says that "a woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man,"the Dallas Morning News points out.
In August 2010, McShan asked to wear a skirt instead of the restaurant's uniform pants. Burger King "assured her that she could wear a skirt to work," the filing says.
"However, when she arrived at work for orientation, the store management informed Ms. McShan that she could not wear a skirt and that she had to leave the store," the lawsuit says. "Ms. McShan was required to leave despite her explanation that she was wearing the skirt with the understanding that she would be allowed a religious accommodation."
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. However, an employer does not have to make exceptions for an employee's religious beliefs if it can show that it is "unable to reasonably accommodate" those beliefs "without undue hardship" on its business.
This isn't the first time Pentecostals have sued their employers after not being allowed to wear skirts.
In February 2009, the Department of Justice announced it had reached a settlement with a Washington, D.C., transit authority after a Pentecostal woman was denied a position as a bus driver when she asked if she could wear a skirt while on the job. The transit authority not only agreed to pay the woman more than $47,000, but it changed its policy on religious accommodation, according to the Religious News Service.
However, Pentecostals don't always win. In January 2012, for example, a federal judge ruled against a Pentecostal woman who was fired after wearing a skirt to her job at a juvenile detention center in Mississippi. The woman, Crystal Finnie, had sued her employer for violation of her First Amendment rights.